When you think of long term Spain expats, Cat Gaa is one of the first that comes to mind. Having lived here for almost eight years, started a blog and a business as well as getting married in a few weeks... it seems like she's done it all! Well we got to chat with her about her time in Spain, the brands she runs and advice she has for those looking to move abroad long term.
Name: Cat Gaa
Hometown: Wheaton, Illinois
Current Whereabouts: Triana, Seville, Spain
Spirit Animal: It’s cool to say the Duquesa de Alba, right?
Current Job: Baby Wrangler / Director of Studies / Guiri Fairy Godmother / Co-founding partner of COMO Consulting Spain / Wannabe freelancer
Social Media Tags:
COMO: @comospain on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest
Sunshine and Siestas: @sunshinesiestas on Twitter and Facebook. Add the ‘and’ for all other social media.
I’m also (somewhat more) serious on LinkedIn
What originally drew you to move to Spain?
I’m from Chicago and Spain has far better weather.
Nah, I had always enjoyed taking Spanish classes and wanted to study abroad in college to improve my fluency. Nothing was keeping me away from España after a five-week intensive course in Valladolid, so I applied to be an auxiliar de conversación in Andalucía.
I love (mostly) all of Spain — the layers, the complications, the language, the food, the horses, the sherry, the abuelos and even the crappy beer. I can’t say I love the lines at banks or the post office or the heat in Seville.
How do you feel you’ve grown since you first got here eight years ago?
Loaded question and even though I get it all the time, I don’t think I’m fully done growing.
What I do know for sure is that I’d have NO idea how to be an adult in the US! Healthcare? Insurance? 401K?
I need a siesta.
Since living here, you’ve established a travel brand Sunshine and Siestas as well as started your own company with Como Consulting. What inspired you to do that and what was your process like?
The whole thing has been quite linear, actually. I studied journalism in college and imagined I’d go back to the US after a year or two. So, SandS began as a blog and sounding board and grew into a culture. A branding expert says that five words to describe my social media presence are: Seville, Feria, Cruzcampo, la Duques de Alba and sass. Fits nicely!
One evening while traveling over Holy Week, I was telling a friend that I was beginning to get overwhelmed with the number of people turning to me for help with bureaucratic issues.
We launched the basis for COMO Consulting right there in Dubrovnik and have been rolling on ever since, taking on clientele from many different countries, backgrounds and ages. In fact, Hayley and I met through the Internet and our personal blogs, so it’s only fitting that we’d start an online venture together (and our individual skill sets mesh together fantastically).
I am a teacher and teacher trainer as my day job, but COMO and SandS are my second shift and both huge priorities (much more so than, say, my upcoming wedding!).
Did you ever envision yourself living the life you are now? How do you feel your past experiences have led you to where you are?
I imagined living a life I enjoyed waking up to most days, though I had no idea where or who with. I’ve been open to change, to growth and to love, and I’m in a pretty good place now that I’m on the brink of 30!
You’re also getting married in a few months, congrats! Tell us a bit about your love story.
A year ago when the Novio and I decided to get married, I felt I had all of the time in the world to pull together a kick-ass bilingual, bicultural wedding in Chicago. I am seriously kicking myself in the face right now as it’s getting down to the wire!
Our story is a lot like everyone elses: whiskey wielding Spaniard who speaks four tongues gets invited to can’t-hold-her-own-in-Spanish’s house one evening for a botellón. Mutual friend leaves them in a bar together. They fall in love over Cruzcampo, buy a house in Triana and decided to stick it out, despite obvious differences in age, origin and sleeping patterns (he siestas, I wish I could).
In all seriousness though, he’s the absolute greatest and we laugh a lot together!
What’s been you most memorable trip since living in Europe?
Probably my most recent adventure, India. Along with my business partner, we took on the subcontinent with empty stomachs and a guidebook. We’ve also done a road-trip around Croatia and Montenegro and the Camino de Santiago together and will hopefully have more trips to come in the future!
What started as family camping trips in Wisconsin developed into a costly hobby. Thanks, Dad?
If you weren’t based out of Sevilla, where would you choose to settle down?
If I were in Spain, Madrid... Colorado, if I were in the US. I’m a mountain girl living in the flatest part of Spain and my snowboard is sitting in my parents’ basement in the flatest part of the US. Life is weird like that.
Three places on your bucket list?
Alaska, New Zealand, South Africa (but only because you made me choose!). Within Spain, Mallorca, Ceuta and Jaén are at the top the list.
What advice would you give to those who are looking to live abroad long term?
Research, network and stop stressing! Things will work out. As we say at COMO, everything is ‘figureoutable.’ I may have been blissfully unaware when it came to paperwork in Spain, but it’s made me smarter and tougher being an adult abroad!
When you first moved to Spain, did you think you’d be here long term?
Nope. I figured I’d get bored after two years or want to move on. It turns out, love, cheap produce and biking to work are magical and persuasive.
What are your favorite Spanish traditions or tendencies?
The Feria de Seville, without a doubt! Who doesn’t love a week dedicated to eating and drinking while wearing a flamenco dress?! Also especially kin to sharing large plates of food with friends, midday beers, markets and, in general, food.
Do you ever find yourself feeling homesick? If so, how do you deal with it?
The occasional homesickness and missing people + things will never entirely evaporate from my life, seguro. Starbucks, binge watching really awful TV shows and womping around the house only get me so far, so whatsapp and Snapchat are a fun way to keep in touch. I’m a lot more up-to-date about the happenings of my loved ones thanks to smartphones than ever before, in fact!
That said, I wish Portillo’s delivered to Spain.
What is your perfect day like?
Remembering there is life off of the computer (unless I’m ticking things off my never-ending to do list!). Good food and drink... mountains or fresh air, if possible.
Anything we should be keeping an eye for in regards to Sunshine + Siestas or Como Conulting? What can we expect in the next year?
As I settle into married life, SandS will likely be less of a priority as I switched to longer, narrative based pieces. COMO will be releasing a second version of our popular Moving to Spain: a Comprehensive Guide to Your First Weeks on the Iberian Peninsula eBook and rolling out a number of new articles.
Interview and text by Sienna. Sienna Brown is the founder of Las Morenas de España. From New York to Murcia, Spain, she is constantly on a journey to inspire and be inspired while engaging in different methods of creation. Her passion for learning about others leads her towards constant exploration and practicing the art of listening as much as she can. See more of her work here and follow her adventures on instagram.